Banking in T&T: Irritating, Irritating, Irritating

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I’ll be honest. I really hate banks. I hate banks so much that if I had a choice, I would prefer to be punched in the testicles than to ever have to visit a bank again.
To me, banking in Trinidad and Tobago, is a horrific experience, but am I alone in this belief that banks are the spawn of Satan himself? To have this question answered, I spoke with a few of my friends, and their complaints and anecdotes were strangely similar to my experiences. So I decided to compile a list of the most common reasons why people hate banks.
As much as we may not want to admit it, we need banks for two, simple reasons (and I’m being really simplistic, and not mentioning the greater macroeconomic issues here):
1. No one wants to walk around with their entire salary in their pocket when month-end arrives.
and
2.  Your company, most likely, will not deposit your entire salary to a credit union.
Still, just because we need them, because they’re a better alternative to stuffing cash under our mattresses, banks stress us out with…
Crappy opening hours
Honestly, why would an institution that serves working class people, only open during working hours? Don’t you think I would be busy between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. doing hmm…I doh know…WORKING? There is nothing my boss likes more than saying: “Kern you need to go to the bank? Of course…go take some much needed time off. We will jus’ limp around until you get back. No problem for the company at all”.
Seriously, isn’t service delivery important to banks? If the majority of your customers is the working class, then why would your opening hours be the same as the hours your customers are occupied? Clearly convenience for customers is not a priority.
In the US of A, for example, some banks open from 8.30 to 6.00 p.m., as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. I know Scotiabank used to offer weekend banking, but I’ve been told that it’s no longer available. And yes Internet banking was introduced to help us deal with this major inconvenience, and avoid the loooonnngg anaconda lines, but hey, customers might actually love banks, if they showed us some consideration by being a bit more accommodating, and flexing their opening hours to suit customers’ lifestyles.
B!tchy customer service
Some of you may have gotten good service at some banks, but here’s a scenario I’ve experienced far too often.
Customer Service Representative (CSR): “Good day sir. How may I help you?”
Me: “I would like to cash this cheque and make a change to my credit card payments.”
(I hand the CSR the cheque. At this point, the CSR’s attitude ‘tun up’ after watching the cheque, and I get the why-the-hell-is-he-here-to-give-me-more-wok stare. Think about it. You have seen it before.)
CSR: “Sir you cannot cash this cheque. It needs to be deposited and after four working days it will be cleared.”
Me: “What the hell! Four whole days? Why horse?” (Yeah I done lose it, but I need the money now and the CSR isn’t helping me at this point).
CSR: “Because the cheque is crossed.”
(Now I’m thinking, “BITCH! I don’t care if it’s crossed, has an asterisk, a square or even curly brackets. I want my money now”. However, I respond.)
Me: “Ok, well deposit it” (while mentally checking to see if I have enough gas money for four days).
(And when I ask about changes to my credit card standing orders, what does she tell me?)
“You cannot make a credit card account change here. You need to go to your home branch.”
Home branch my foot!
What the hell is a home branch? Aren’t all the *insert your bank’s name* branches the same bank? So why does it feel like one bank, with many sounds? A home branch is something I’ve never understood. RBC (or RBTT as some of us still call it) has all my information to authenticate my identity, if I want to make a change to my account, even via telephone. All the branches can access this information, so why can only one branch make changes? I think I speak for everyone when I say this is the dumbest process ever. Readers, do you agree?
I know they’ll say it’s all about security risks, and protecting me. And yes, you might say that’s what Internet banking is for. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating when someone loses their bankcard, and has to travel to the next end of Trinidad, to their home branch, to collect a new one. Hard luck if you opened an account in Port of Spain, when you used to work in that area, and now you work in San Fernando.
Strangely enough, this issue of a home branch is also present in banks in foreign countries – although they do offer their customers the convenience of a wider range of transactions at all branches and online.
And while I’m on this customer service issue, you know what else peeves me? Apart from the fact that I continuously wait in really long lines, and end up reaching to work late, when you really analyse the situation, the full complement of tellers are not working; only two, maybe three. Maybe they are stuck in bank lines too…at their home branch.
Lack of responsibility/Totally profit oriented
Banks always promote loans more than savings in their advertising. Sure they have implemented the debt to income ratio. However, the banks’ responsibility to the public should go much further than that. Just today I saw Republic Bank’s Google text ad saying, “Use your Credit Card this Christmas and spread some joy!” Ugh yeah. Joy now…seriously broke for the new year.
Banks should implement a solution that properly discusses responsible finances, specifically targeting young adults. A bank, or any financial institution, for that matter, shouldn’t encourage someone to buy a brand new car when it is not a need on a relatively low salary. Nor should it encourage someone new to the working world to use a loan to pay for something frivolous, such as a carnival costume. It should also discuss strategies on how to save money to achieve a specific goal, and not spread the notion that a loan is an answer to all your financial needs. In my humble opinion, this can greatly develop better finance management skills in Trinidad and Tobago.
Excessive fees
While everyone bombarded me with different issues about banks, only one person had a totally different perspective on this topic. Dike’s (pronounced DK) grievances were not process or customer service related. Instead, his biggest grievance was the amount of fees the bank charges its customers to access their hard-earned money. He also expressed disgust with the interest rate on loans, both short and long term. This particular grievance is one we see highlighted by customers in First World countries…which made me think, are we as Trinbagonians focused on Third World issues of how we are treated, or is it that Third World countries in general don’t know how to implement superior customer service?
So there you have it folks, some of the common reasons why Trinbagonians, including myself, hate banks. Hopefully, and I know I’m stretching here, one of the banks might actually ‘take me on’, and this article can be used as a catalyst to change the way banks treat customers. Having said that, in all honesty, I don’t think that will happen. Modern changes in the local banking system happen ever few zillion years. However, if banks could change any of their processes by next year, what changes would you like to see?

I’ll be honest. I really hate banks. I hate banks so much that if I had a choice, I would prefer to be punched in the testicles than to ever have to visit a bank again.

To me, banking in Trinidad and Tobago, is a horrific experience, but am I alone in this belief that banks are the spawn of Satan himself? To have this question answered, I spoke with a few of my friends, and their complaints and anecdotes were strangely similar to my experiences. So I decided to compile a list of the most common reasons why people hate banks.


As much as we may not want to admit it, we need banks for two, simple reasons (and I’m being really simplistic, and not mentioning the greater macroeconomic issues here):

1. No one wants to walk around with their entire salary in their pocket when month-end arrives.

and

2.  Your company, most likely, will not deposit your entire salary to a credit union.

Still, just because we need them, because they’re a better alternative to stuffing cash under our mattresses, banks stress us out with…

Crappy opening hours

Honestly, why would an institution that serves working class people, only open during working hours? Don’t you think I would be busy between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. doing hmm…I doh know…WORKING? There is nothing my boss likes more than saying: “Kern you need to go to the bank? Of course…go take some much needed time off. We will jus’ limp around until you get back. No problem for the company at all”.

Honestly, why would an institution that serves working class people, only open during working hours?

Seriously, isn’t service delivery important to banks? If the majority of your customers is the working class, then why would your opening hours be the same as the hours your customers are occupied? Clearly convenience for customers is not a priority.

In the US of A, for example, some banks open from 8.30 to 6.00 p.m., as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. I know Scotiabank used to offer weekend banking, but I’ve been told that it’s no longer available. And yes Internet banking was introduced to help us deal with this major inconvenience, and avoid the loooonnngg anaconda lines, but hey, customers might actually love banks, if they showed us some consideration by being a bit more accommodating, and flexing their opening hours to suit customers’ lifestyles.

B!tchy customer service

Some of you may have gotten good service at some banks, but here’s a scenario I’ve experienced far too often.

Customer Service Representative (CSR): “Good day sir. How may I help you?”

Me: “I would like to cash this cheque and make a change to my credit card payments.”

(I hand the CSR the cheque. At this point, the CSR’s attitude ‘tun up’ after watching the cheque, and I get the why-the-hell-is-he-here-to-give-me-more-wok stare. Think about it. You have seen it before.)

CSR: “Sir you cannot cash this cheque. It needs to be deposited and after four working days it will be cleared.”

Me: “What the hell! Four whole days? Why horse?” (Yeah I done lose it, but I need the money now and the CSR isn’t helping me at this point).

CSR: “Because the cheque is crossed.”

(Now I’m thinking, “BITCH! I don’t care if it’s crossed, has an asterisk, a square or even curly brackets. I want my money now”. However, I respond.)

Me: “Ok, well deposit it” (while mentally checking to see if I have enough gas money for four days).

(And when I ask about changes to my credit card standing orders, what does she tell me?)

“You cannot make a credit card account change here. You need to go to your home branch.”

Home branch my foot! 

What the hell is a home branch? Aren’t all the *insert your bank’s name* branches the same bank? So why does it feel like one bank, with many sounds? A home branch is something I’ve never understood. RBC (or RBTT as some of us still call it) has all my information to authenticate my identity, if I want to make a change to my account, even via telephone. All the branches can access this information, so why can only one branch make changes? I think I speak for everyone when I say this is the dumbest process ever. Readers, do you agree?

So why does it feel like one bank, with many sounds?

I know they’ll say it’s all about security risks, and protecting me. And yes, you might say that’s what Internet banking is for. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less frustrating when someone loses their bankcard, and has to travel to the next end of Trinidad, to their home branch, to collect a new one. Hard luck if you opened an account in Port of Spain, when you used to work in that area, and now you work in San Fernando.

Strangely enough, this issue of a home branch is also present in banks in foreign countries – although they do offer their customers the convenience of a wider range of transactions at all branches and online.

And while I’m on this customer service issue, you know what else peeves me? Apart from the fact that I continuously wait in really long lines, and end up reaching to work late, when you really analyse the situation, the full complement of tellers are not working; only two, maybe three. Maybe they are stuck in bank lines too…at their home branch.

Lack of responsibility/Totally profit oriented

Banks always promote loans more than savings in their advertising. Sure they have implemented the debt to income ratio. However, the banks’ responsibility to the public should go much further than that. Just today I saw Republic Bank’s Google text ad saying, “Use your Credit Card this Christmas and spread some joy!” Ugh yeah. Joy now…seriously broke for the new year.

Banks should implement a solution that properly discusses responsible finances, specifically targeting young adults. A bank, or any financial institution, for that matter, shouldn’t encourage someone to buy a brand new car when it is not a need on a relatively low salary. Nor should it encourage someone new to the working world to use a loan to pay for something frivolous, such as a carnival costume. It should also discuss strategies on how to save money to achieve a specific goal, and not spread the notion that a loan is an answer to all your financial needs. In my humble opinion, this can greatly develop better finance management skills in Trinidad and Tobago.

Excessive fees

While everyone bombarded me with different issues about banks, only one person had a totally different perspective on this topic. Dike’s (pronounced DK) grievances were not process or customer service related. Instead, his biggest grievance was the amount of fees the bank charges its customers to access their hard-earned money. He also expressed disgust with the interest rate on loans, both short and long term. This particular grievance is one we see highlighted by customers in First World countries…which made me think, are we as Trinbagonians focused on Third World issues of how we are treated, or is it that Third World countries in general don’t know how to implement superior customer service?

From my research, it’s obvious that some of the common reasons why Trinbagonians, including myself, hate banks are related to customer service. Hopefully, and I know I’m stretching here, one of the banks might actually ‘take me on’, and this article can be used as a catalyst to change the way banks treat customers. Having said that, in all honesty, I don’t think that will happen. Modern changes in the local banking system happen ever few zillion years. However, if banks could change any of their processes by next year, what changes would you like to see?

 

Image credit: wuzdescene.com

Kern Elliott

Kern Elliott has always regaled people with his storytelling abilities. These stories are often blogged about or accompanied by gestures, when told in person. Kern is an I.T. professional with an Associate Degree in Information Systems Management and a BSc in Computing.

13 Comments

  1. marcia

    December 5, 2011 at 2:07 am

    I feel you should switch banks !! Republic Bank on campus hardly gives me any trouble.

  2. shells

    December 5, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Kern I feel your pain, especially when you mentioned RBC/RBTT (whatever name they’re going by these days), and their ridiculous ‘home branch’ nonsense. Not all banks do that crap though, and their are some banks that offer mall opening hours 10am to 6pm (only impacted when that lovely curfew caca was in place).
    Other banks also offered Saturday banking but since the response was NOT as good as expected they stopped offering it (Unit Trust is also guilty of this).

    That being said: loved your article. Fill out EVERY single suggestion form every time you do go into a bank, ask for a form if it’s not available, make your voice heard…some banks actually do listen to their customers (and customers are sometimes even rewarded for the suggestions)

  3. No_Name person

    December 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    @ Kern – I real feel your pain, its the same thing for credit cards. Its been renewed and is available for collection at your home branch (in Toco). FCB’s CSR’s LURVE to not give a name when I call *rolling eyes* (Yes, this is reception, or this is credit card services – really?! dat on your birth certificated?!)

    On a side note though, Central Bank has a financial literacy programme they offer in schools – teaching about money management

  4. Andrew

    December 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Being a bank employees, ex-csr i agree with your article to an extent, but as with all things misunderstanding the way things operate would always seem frustrating.

    A crossed cheque really has nothing to your cheque being on hold, however it is a legally binding agreement that companies affix to their cheques which ensure that the cheque is deposited in the account of the payee before the funds can be accessed. The reason cheques are placed on hold are for instances that they are other bank cheques or that the chequing account to which the cheque is being drawn on does not have the necessary funds to process the transaction and as such will be processed internally.

    To address your other concern about the opening time for banking and such, while the bank has to bear in mind the needs f its customers, is it not also the banks right to see about their employees right?

    My plea to you would be that the next time you enter the bank that you bear in mind while the process can be a frustrating one for you the customer, we the CSR’s are individuals doing a job and are governed by policies and procedures, as with all companies and sometimes we don’t like the process its the job that pays our bills at the end of the month

    • Lennard Gay

      November 8, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      Hush Yuh fuckin cunt

      • Lennard Gay

        November 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

        I have been a school teacher for 20 years working 8-2:30 and I still can’t make it to the bank on time because they close so early.

    • Lennard Gay

      November 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      My bank is Scotia Bank and they have been the best thus fae

  5. Rudi Krasand Singh

    March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    watch the 2010 movie INSIDE JOB on what the banks are doing ….. they are worst than killers and common thieves ……… see link attached
    http://www.sonyclassics.com/insidejob/

  6. Rudi Krasand Singh

    March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    this will blow your mind!!! and suck the air from your stomach!

  7. Relie Golden

    March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    #1 pet peeve: We are not customers or people they see us only in value.

  8. Rudi Krasand Singh

    March 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    if you have been a loyal customer of the bank for many years …. they always treat you as a stranger every time you go in for a loan!

  9. The Travelling Trini

    March 30, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Standing in line while geriatrics cash their cheques!

  10. Commenting

    May 3, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I agree that the bank have horrible systems in place that do not suit the working population. They should definitely try improving that but I certainly do not agree with adapting these working hours like in the US of A. If we keep pushing for that then we will be just like those in America who have no life really.

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